Aviation

Flight attendant loses two teeth after passenger attack, as union calls for more protection

A flight attendant lost two teeth and was left seriously injured in the latest attack on cabin crew by unruly passengers in the US.

During a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego earlier this month, a passenger became “verbally and physically” abusive towards a crew member after ignoring standard flight instructions, according to a statement from the airline.

“We do not condone or tolerate verbal or physical abuse of our flight crews, who are responsible for the safety of our passengers,” it said.

“We are partnering with the FAA to investigate incidents so they may take appropriate actions. We will continue to work with both the FAA and the union to preserve and protect the safety and well-being of our flight crews and customers.”

Local police in San Diego released a statement identifying the passenger as 28-year-old Vyvianna Quinonez and said that officers met the plane at the airport upon arrival.

Quinonez was arrested on suspicion of causing serious bodily injury and was booked into the Las Colinas Detention Facility.

Paramedics transported the flight attendant, who police said had “serious injuries”, to Scripps Memorial Hospital.

Reports also indicate the flight attendant lost two teeth as a result of the attack.

In response to the incident, a union that represents Southwest Airlines released an open letter to the airline’s CEO Garry Kelly urging Southwest to put better protections in place for flight attendants.

Penned by TWU Local 556 president Lyn Montgomery, the letter urges the airline to “demonstrate that interference with crew members’ duties – including intimidation, threats of violence and outright physical aggression – will not be tolerated”.

“Unfortunately, this is just one of many occurrences,” Montgomery said of the attack, outlining that there had been 477 passenger misconduct incidents on Southwest flights from 8 April to 15 May.

“Today’s travelling environment requires a new level of firmness in both tone and direction to ensure proper control in the cabin of our aircraft as the attitudes and behaviours of the flying public have, unfortunately, declined.

“It must be noted that Southwest flight attendants are doing all they can do to ensure compliance while creating a safe environment for all passengers and crew, but they also need the support and tools required to prevent injury to ourselves and others.”

The letter suggests the airline should implement a restricted travellers list, increase the number of air marshals on flights, educate passengers about the penalties attached to abusive behaviour and add more flexibility to the timing of flights.

“Passengers who do not comply with regulations and federal mask mandates cause disruptions to our operations and to our customers’ travel plans, resulting in gate returns, flight diversions and delays,” Montgomery said.

“No passenger should be removed from one flight only to be permitted to board the very next Southwest Airlines flight after a non-compliance incident.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there have been 2,500 reports of unruly behaviour by passengers including about 1,900 reports of passengers refusing to comply with the federal mask mandate since the start of 2021.


Featured image source: iStock/Mutlu Kurtbas


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